By Sam Jones
Staff reporter

We all remember the friendly, smiling staff at the Welcome Center that greeted us on our first day at Southwestern College. Not as many of us know what actually goes on behind the scenes in the roles of these welcoming counselors and the work that they do in order to get us here.

“For any student who wants to apply at Southwestern College, there are several things they have to do. They have to start out with an application. If they are in high school still and are going to be coming in as a freshman, then they have to provide official copies of their high school transcripts and ACT or SAT scores – either one is acceptable. The ACT is very popular in this part of the country, the SAT is very popular on the east coast and in Texas. So it just depends on where they’re from. And there are minimum requirements. So for a domestic student that’s in high school and wants to attend Southwestern, the minimum GPA requirement is a 2.6 and the minimum ACT is an 18 or a total SAT score of 850 in both reading and math. And then after that, we review their documents and if they meet the qualifications, then they’re accepted into Southwestern College,” said Leslie Grant, senior admission counselor.

“A typical season for an admissions counselor starts with going on the road. We’ll get on the road during fall season and we’ll go to different college fairs to recruit students. Those students can consist of 2015, which is the year of recruitment or then on, so 2015, 16 and 17. We’d typically look for 15 and 16 because we’re trying to get numbers. And so we’ll go to those college fairs, bring back inquiry cards but the majority of the first six months, we’re just travelling,” said Korie Hawkins, admission counselor.

“I have the Kansas City areas and the Wichita private schools area, so I visit all of those campuses. We go to about ten different college fairs to try and recruit students; just to let them know about us,” said Morgan Constantine, admission counselor.

“Now that it’s in the winter months, we’re going through the process of accepting those students and getting those students on campus, and once we get them on campus, then we just try and get them through the admissions process which is application, transcript and their ACT or SAT, and GPA. And then we pass them off to financial aid, which is Stephannie DeLong, family financial planner, and we get them working with their financial estimate to see if they can afford Southwestern. So, that’s sort of the cycle,” said Hawkins.

The majority of Southwestern College students are involved in an activity; whether that be playing on a sporting team, being on the leadership team, in theater, etc. The counselors in the Welcome Center are divided up and each have their own activity groups that they’re in charge of.

“I’m assigned to different athletic programs, so women’s and men’s cross country, women’s and men’s track and field, football, cheerleading and dance. Michelle Pentz, performing arts recruiter, looks over performing arts, which consists of theater, instrumental, vocal – different arts realm of activities. Rodney Worsham, director of admission operations, does tennis, but he emphasizes on the service learning programs, so Discipleship, Leadership, Green Team – things like that. And then Morgan Constantine, admission counselor, does men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, softball, men’s and women’s basketball and then Krystal Winn, Texas admissions counselor, who is our regional counselor, she works out of Texas and she handles students who just want to go to Southwestern. And primarily her job just consists of recruiting all types of students from the state of Texas,” said Hawkins.

“The Coaches will find players and get their names and emails and information and they’ll send them to us and once we get that information, we’ll send them a direct email and say, ‘Hey, one of our coaches saw you and they really like you, why don’t you come out to campus and check it all out and do that kind of stuff,” said Constantine.

“We (counselors) each have different ways we go about our processes and it’s just a personal thing. But it just depends on the activity – we all have different people. Michelle takes theater and theater kids – she handles them great and knows how to talk to them. I played soccer so I can really talk to the soccer players pretty well and so it’s just kind of nice because each of the different fields we have, we have some kind of affiliation with them,” said Constantine.

The counselors may be heavily involved in bringing you to campus and helping you enroll at Southwestern, and that is the main part of their job, but the staff here go above and beyond their call of duty, keeping track of the students that they recruited and making sure they’re settling into the Moundbuilder culture here at the college, by regularly following them and up to check in with them and be another familiar face.

“Of course, I think it’s really nice – you know, we create a bond with the students – we’re the ones trying to convince you to come to Southwestern, we’re the face that you see, the text messages you get and stuff like that so once you get here, it’s nice to keep that bond and keep checking in with them and see how they’re doing, or to go to the games just to see the students, because I think it’s important that they see my face because I helped get them here. And it’s also nice to know that they have somebody else to talk to that’s not a coach or a student – somebody else to just chat with,” said Constantine.

“I do have contact with students that I have recruited. I believe that once I create that bond with them, then I need to make sure that they are successful here at Southwestern in the best way possible. So I’m just another link that helps them get their books or if they need to talk to somebody, or just get counselling sessions, you know if Mom and Dad are on their back about their grades and stuff or even if I hear that they’re not going to class, I’ll send them a text and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ you know, so yes I do still stay connected while they’re here,” said Hawkins.

Southwestern also has a wide range of international students that come from all over the world. Leslie Grant is the point of contact between the College and the students prior to their arrival.

“International student admissions are mostly a lot of social media and email. Most of my interaction with the international students is either through phone, sometimes Facebook, sometimes WeChat if they’re in China, but mostly email and phone,” said Grant, “We’ve had students from Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Sweden, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Mozambique – all over the world.”

“My role has changed quite a bit this year. I used to be in charge of admission for all transfer students and all international students, and so this year – especially starting next fall – I’m moving away from transfer students and focusing just on international students. We have five other counselors who work with just high school students. I am only involved in that for questions and backup. So when they travel, I am here to help see campus visitors,” said Grant.

There is a cumbersome amount of paperwork involved, from I-20 student visas, to Social Security numbers and I-94’s. There is a lot more work to do for an international student to gain parallel with the domestic students and be a part of college in the USA.

“I’m the first person. It all starts with me or stops, depending on how you look at it. So then they get to know me and they can come in to my office and say ‘I have a problem with this, this or this, how can you help me?’ and I love that part of it – I love being able to say ‘let’s look at this and figure out the best thing for you,” said Grant.

The doors at the Welcome Center are always open to students and the staff there are unbelievably friendly, so pop in and say hello, and show them some love.

Sam Jones is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email him at samuel.jones@sckans.edu